Even if Stephen King hadn’t written an episode of “The X-Files,” we’d know he was a fan by reading “Dreamcatcher,” his 2001 novel that demonstrates the truth is out there, and it is yucky.
The story has mind-reading, fast-moving viruses, government conspiracies, alien invasions and a mystical kid with strange abilities. As told in the frigid new film version, it bears even more similarities to the exploits of Mulder and Scully, blending humor and horror — often in the same scene — and using a deftly portrayed camaraderie among friends to bring the action home.
We are quickly introduced to a foursome of childhood friends now grown up and living in Maine. Henry (Thomas Jane) is a suicidal psychiatrist; Jonesy (Damian Lewis) is a kind-hearted history professor; Pete (Timothy Olyphant) is a car salesman having bad luck with women; Beaver (Jason Lee) drinks, I guess. (The introductory scenes show the other guys at their jobs; Beaver’s shows him at a bar.)
All four have psychic abilities, connecting them to each other and to the rest of the world. In flashback, we learn of “Duddits,” a semi-retarded boy they encountered in their youth who gave them these powers — powers they have yet to fully understand or master the use of.
These talents come into play, sort of, when the psychic friends take their annual retreat to Hole in the Wall, a hunting shack in a remote corner of the woods. A hunter enters their midst, stricken with a strange virus that manifests itself in explosive gas emissions, and later in even more disgusting ways. Soon they are in the middle of a full-blown military operation led by Col. Curtis (Morgan Freeman), who has been pursuing — and encountering — extra-terrestrials far too long to still be considered sane.
There is, at one point, a monster trapped in a toilet. How did it get in the toilet? Well, it hatched inside a person and then, um, came out. This is not a film for the squeamish, nor for those whose knack for suspension of disbelief is poorly developed. The climax, in particular, is surreal and strange. Either you go with it or you don’t; I did.
Damian Lewis’ performance as Jonesy is noteworthy for his creepy, Gollum-like arguments with himself after being possessed by an alien being.
Director Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”) employs a quiet, matter-of-fact tone for most of the film, allowing the silent, frozen landscape to convey all the foreboding we need. If there is lacking, it’s in William Goldman’s screenplay adaptation, which mentions Henry’s thoughts of suicide exactly once, and lets a few other things slide away, too.
But in all, it’s an appealing collage of sci-fi and horror elements. It has moments of high suspense, but mostly, it has moments of curiousity, telling a strange story primarily just for the fun of it.
B (2 hrs., 15 min.; )